12/09/2003 12:00AM

Particulars favor Golden Damsel


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - In the third start of her career, and her first on Aqueduct's inner track, Golden Damsel scored a monstrous 15 1/2-length maiden victory last December. Trainer Gary Contessa hopes Golden Damsel's third start off a layoff and a return to the inner oval produces a similar result on Thursday, in the featured second-level allowance race for fillies and mares at a mile and 70 yards.

Thursday also marks Contessa's return to action after sitting out the last 10 days because of a medication positive. Contessa, the leading trainer the past two inner-track meets, has five runners on the card.

Golden Damsel, a 3-year-old daughter of Gold Token won 3 of 5 starts over the inner track last winter. Her three wins came in statebred company while her two losses came in open stakes. Since leaving the inner track, Golden Damsel has competed in four consecutive restricted stakes, winning the Bouwerie by 9 3/4 lengths in May.

A knee fracture sidelined Golden Damsel for nearly six months and she has finished fourth in two stakes tries since. She was surprisingly sent off as the favorite in the Perfect Arc division of the New York Stallion stakes, despite having never before raced on turf. In the 1 1/8-mile Montauk on dirt, Golden Damsel ran off with Chuck Lopez, opening a seven-length lead while running an opening-half mile in 46.99 seconds only to fade to fourth.

Though she comes back in only 11 days, Contessa thinks this race is the perfect spot for Golden Damsel, who will break from the rail under Richard Migliore.

"I love that this race on Thursday is at a mile and 70 yards and is the third race off the layoff," Contessa said. "She floundered a little bit on soft turf, but she came back in [the Montauk] and she was obviously right; she just went too fast early. Cutting back to a mile and 70 around two turns and reuniting with Migliore is going to make a huge difference."

Golden Damsel might have to deal with a wet surface on Thursday. Her only race over a wet track resulted in a third-place finish, in a New York stallion stakes last April.

Stake is the only other runner in the seven-horse field with success over the inner track. She won a pair of two-turn claiming races last winter for trainer Steve Young.

Ed Barker claimed Stake for $50,000 in August. In her second start off the claim, Stake overcame a stumbling start to record a front-running victory in a 1 1/8-mile entry-level allowance race over the main track on Nov. 16.